In 1879, Standing Bear, chief of the Ponca tribe, took the United States government to trial and won. He was arrested near Fort Omaha while taking his son’s body from Oklahoma—where his tribe was forcibly relocated—to their ancestral lands along the Niobrara River between Nebraska and North Dakota. Judge Elmer Dundy defined Indians for the first time as persons under the law, and ruled that Standing Bear and his people were free to return home.
Standing Bear's story deeply inspired me. Why hadn't I heard it before reading Cowboys & Indians last summer? Why aren't kids taught about this American hero? I had to paint him.
This painting is constructed of three canvases & painted in acrylic. The upper portrait is 20 x 16", & has a lot of texture. The mid-section with the spirit bears is 10 x 30" The lower section, 11 x 14, has a copy of a treaty with the Ponca people. A hole is cut through the treaty & canvas, then woven over. It was featured at Sebastopol Gallery last fall.
His story also inspired Joe Starita. He wrote a book, I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice. I'd like to read it.